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Not the Hero

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She looks so beautiful, standing there in white—the girl of your dreams. You’ve waited for her, you’ve poured out your life and your love to her and now as the minister welcomes those present to witness your vows, the moment has come to take her as your bride. In a strange reversal, your hands are sweaty, but your mouth is dry. Your heart is leaping with each beat, and you notice every detail as if it were etched in crystal.

You look across the minister at your bride. Why is she looking past your left shoulder? She’s making eye contact with your best man. Wait a minute—she’s stopping the service! She’s taking HIS hand! She’s apologizing to the gathered crowd, and they are headed for the door together! What’s going on?

One thing’s for sure—that was not a successful wedding.

Dr. Gordon Hugenberger told this story when I was in seminary, and as I sit in my office now in my first pastorate, my heart breaks afresh for that imaginary groom left standing at the altar while his princess rides off with someone else. I am angry at the best man for stealing the groom’s girl.

And then I head out to serve my congregation, trying my hardest to get Christ’s Bride to fall in love with me.

I want to be indispensable. Someone in my church has doubts about their faith? I want them to call me. Is anyone sick? I hope they remember my number. Someone is struggling with their spouse? I hope they’ll look to me for counsel. I want to be the answer man. I want to be the comforter. I want to be the hero, riding in to save the day. And I see Jesus, standing at the altar, waiting for His Bride to come to Him.

One thing’s for sure—that is not a successful pastorate.

John the Baptist’s disciples were upset that their teacher’s popularity was declining and Jesus was baptizing more people than John was (John 3:25–30). “Something is wrong here!” they complained. John’s answer was profound: Jesus is the Groom; I’m the best man. In a successful wedding, the groom is the one who ends up with the bride. Don’t worry; everything’s going according to plan.

When Dr. Hugenberger preached on this passage, he admonished us to remind ourselves daily: “I am not the Christ.” We who are pastors go through our lives wanting to be Superman, wanting to be the knight riding in on the white horse, wanting to be the hero. But that’s not our role.

When I was asked to candidate as the pastor for Gates Alliance Church, it was in trouble. Fresh out of seminary, I met with the pastoral search committee, and they asked me what my plan was to save the church. “I can’t save this church,” I said. “I don’t have the plan. I’m not the hero of this story—Jesus is! I’m just the best man.”

Here’s what I can do as a pastor. I can work hard to get the Bride ready for her Groom. I can faithfully communicate the Groom’s words. I can help the Bride mend her dress. I can tend her wounds. I can help her avoid distractions and protect her from other suitors. And I can do everything in my power to make sure that the guy she loves and longs to see, the guy she depends on, is the Groom.

The Bible says there is a hero who’ll ride in on a white horse at the end of the story to marry the princess (Rev. 19:11–16), but the guy on the charger is not named Denes House! He’s called Faithful and True, the Word of God, King of Kings and Lord of Lords—and I had better not forget it.

Amazingly, the search committee extended a call to me, and sure enough, when rescue came for Gates Alliance Church, I was not the hero. Jesus brought help from an unexpected direction, completely apart from my efforts. The Lord brought us together with another struggling congregation and enabled us to merge as Trinity Alliance Church. “The Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:23).

The hero showed up and saved the day. He always does. And best of all, the Bride knows it. You can see it in her eyes as she looks at Him. My joy is complete.

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